By Eleni P. Austin

If it were possible for Brian Wilson, Elton John and Harry Nilsson to have a musical love child, his name would be Danny Henry. Don’t let the halo of cherubic curls and his boyish croon fool you. This kid possesses the harmonic instincts of Brian, the athletic piano prowess of Elton, plus the sly and skewed humor of Harry.

The Connecticut native had his first musical epiphany as a toddler, courtesy a Fisher-Price cassette player and a tape that featured the Beach Boys’ song, “Surfer Girl.” He endlessly obsessed over the harmonies, falsetto vocals, the lyrics and ethereal arrangement. The feeling he got listening to the music was euphoric.

He came from a musical family. His mom studied Classical piano throughout childhood. His dad’s expansive music history and trivia information instilled an unshakable knowledge for Danny at an early age. Car sing-a-longs included everything from Alvin & The Chipmunks, Elton John, The Grease soundtrack and Jim Croce. His mom even encouraged Danny and his siblings to record snappy Motown song parodies as the outgoing message on their answering machine.


Early experimentation on his Grandma’s piano led to violin lessons in grade school. An empathetic music teacher, Ben Lazduskas, was a passionate instructor who taught Danny how to read sheet music and understand complex harmonies. By then, he had moved from violin to trumpet. During his high school years, he played with a few bands, but found he preferred to go it alone.

Following college, he embarked on a solo cross-country tour, a volleyball strapped in the passenger seat was his only companion. Once this Connecticut castaway arrived in sunny Los Angeles, he knew he was truly home. That feeling was magnified when he participated in an Open Mic show at Canter’s renowned Kibbitz Room. He effectively stole the show with one song.

A member of Brian Wilson’s band was in the audience that evening, and immediately alerted L.A.’s cognoscenti. Paul Rock, architect of the annual Wild Honey concert series was also on hand and managed to catch a bit of his set. He invited him to perform at an upcoming Wild Honey Beach Boys tribute and Danny responded with a very enthusiastic “YES!”

(The Wild Honey Foundation, takes it’s name from a 1967 Beach Boys album. The non-profit has been putting on all-star musical events since the mid ‘90s. The proceeds benefit the Autism Think-Tank-also a non-profit that enables parents of autistic children to teleconference with medical specialists from all across America.)

The annual benefit concerts typically salute an artist or a particular album. This Beach Boys show concentrated on the band’s less commercial period between 1967-1977. Danny was immediately embraced by a cadre of L.A. musicians who participate in the show each year, including sui generis songstress Syd Straw, Willie Aron, Derrick Anderson, David Jenkins, Jim Laspesa, Chris Price, Bill Mumy and Mike Randle.He shared the stage with Beach Boy Al Jardine, Micky Dolenz of the Monkees, Debbi Peterson from The Bangles, Susan Cowsill of The Cowsills, and Dream Syndicate front-man, Steve Wynn. Realizing he’d found his tribe, a couple years later, Danny moved to L.A.

Soon enough, he was playing venues like The Mint, Skinny’s Lounge, McCabe’s, The Redwood Bar, Molly Malone’s and The Goldfish. Inevitably, musician, producer and all-around polymath, Fernando Perdomo connected with him and said “let’s make some music.” Danny had made a couple of albums before relocating to California, now with Fern manning the recording console, he released 2020’s Danifest Destiny. Recently, they returned with Off-Vaudeville.

This expansive 14-song set opens with the one-two punch of “Oh Lord” and Get To Know Me Again.” The former lands somewhere between the ecclesiastic joy of The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” and XTC’s slightly sacrilegious “Dear God.” Celestial harmonies wash over downcast piano, thready bass and churchy keys. Questioning lyrics take the almighty to task, drawing a line between the haves and the have-nots: “Tents line up on sidewalks while some take second homes.”

The latter takes a more secular tack. Pounding piano chords collide with fractious guitars, gritty bass and a stompy beat. Sanguine lyrics implore an ex to hit the reset button on their relationship: “I’ve been thinking lately, I’ve been thinking baby, I’m a different kind of guy, you’ve grown and so have I…” Flirty, female harmonies plead his case, along with a propulsive brass fanfare.

Sonically, this record is all over the map, and that’s a good thing. Jimmy Webb memorialized MacArthur Park, Danny has similar ambitions with “Tarrywile,” a spot he frequented in Danbury. Stacked harmonies cocoon his honeyed tenor, cresting atop a dreamy soundscape that is bookended by liquid keys, melancholy Mellotron, smoky horns and psychedelicized sitar.

Then there’s the unambiguous “Ma,” a jaunty number that drafts off the British Music Hall tradition. Angular guitars, blowsy horns and woozy keys wrap around fluttery handclaps and a stutter-step beat. Lyrics like “First one to know you, first one to feed you, she’s there when you’re sleepy, she’s there when you’re weepy, and when you’re loud and when you’re proud, she will always love you,” pay homage to the person that knows you best.

Much like The Roches’ “Damn Dog,” or Jonatha Brooke & The Story’s “Dog Dreams,” Danny’s “Dog Days Of Gunner” offers up a canine perspective. ‘70s AOR guitars ride roughshod over boomerang bass, spitfire keys, sylvan horns and a percolating beat. Clearly, Gunner calls the shots; “I walk my parents round the neighborhood and smile, my favorite foods, they’re chicken and they’re cheese, the grass is growing, oh I might stay awhile, indoors, outdoors, open the doors please.”

Danny deftly chronicles the highs and lows of love on two back-to-back tracks. “So I Thank You” is a Beatlesque benediction that blends feathery piano, brittle bass, guitars that zither one minute and banjo the next, across a loping beat. Lyrics Sly-&-The-Family-Stone sincerely “Thank you for letting me be myself.” Conversely, by “Dance With Me,” the bloom is off the rose. Cascading piano notes wash over flinty bass, finger-popping percussion, and Doo-Wop harmonies. Danny persuasively pleads his case: “Even though our time together was not that long, I’d give my forever for one more song dancing with you under the stars.”

The very best songs here allow Danny to let his freak-flag fly, so to speak. Back when AM Pop Radio ruled the airwaves, “Pink-Haired Lady” could have sandwiched nicely between Jackson Browne’s “Doctor My Eyes” and Leon Russell’s “Delta Lady.” Stately piano, sinewy guitar, horn fillips and a chunky backbeat fuel a kaleidoscopic arrangement. Gangly lyrics unspool a jabberwocky of suave seduction lines: “Your spectacular vernacular, it drives me wild, your south bay accent and your siren’s smile gonna make me laugh, we’ll exchange our nervous grins, twist the covers baby, here we go again/Excuse me, you’re sexy, cross my t’s and dot my eyes, excuse me, you’re dreamy, show me your surprise.” A rakish guitar solo on the break doubles down on the carnal concupiscence.

There’s little ambiguity to “Kinky.” He matches a laundry-list of fetishes to a rollicking arrangement that splits the difference between opulent Rock Opera excess and Noise Rock dissonance. Meanwhile, he flips the script with the unabashed love song, “Sally Bailey May.” Infectious guitars jingle-jangle, anchored by swirly keys, insistent horns, a tambourine shake and a walloping beat. Sweetly tart lyrics like “Give me another kiss, let me know all I miss, shadows swaying firelight, you’re all I need tonight” evoke a fresh-faced innocence that’s immediately upended by the thrashy guitar solo on the break.

Other interesting tracks include the Spector-esque Wall Of Sound of “Love Me, Dear,” the ooga-chaka awesomeness of “When Love Comes Round” and the anthemic “We All Live Once.” Here, Danny wraps a candy-coated “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing” melody around politically subversive lyrics like “Can’t say ‘all lives matter,’ until the ones who need loving most are taken care of and the rules we follow turn to Gold, we are brothers, sisters and we’ll look for helpers, Mr. Rogers, if it saves just ONE life, why not go and adjust our posture.”

The record closes with the album’s magnum opus, “Danny’s Bar.” An up-tempo piano ballad that echoes Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” with lyrics that offer up a day-in-the-life of a local watering hole. Painterly piano dovetails with Glam-tastic guitars, frisky bass lines, sugary keys, lithe trumpet runs and a brawny backbeat. Danny’s winsome tenor is buoyed a Greek chorus of backing vocalists including Syd Straw and his hometown pals The 34’s (Jay Sasso, Dave Santoro and Mike Szeligowski) as he sings the bar’s praises: “Here at Danny’s Bar, the popcorn tastes so good, make sure to use a coaster, no rings on the wood, Storytime Bob just left with Sammy Davis, Jr. don’t miss them next time, make sure to get here sooner.” It’s a playful finish to a landmark record.

A plethora of fine folks helped bring Danny’s musical vision to fruition including Connor Hart and J. David Carrera on guitars, Nelson Bragg on drums, Probyn Gregory and Everett Kelly on horns and Kaitlin Wolfberg on violin. Backing vocals were handled by Caitlin Kalafus, Kelsey Rogers, Cisco Barahona, Alexandra Rae, Tom Wardle, James Fritz Booth and Bailey Norton. Rob Weiss and JK Harrison did double and triple duty on bass, drums, keys and percussion, respectively. Fernando is the record’s MVP, tackling bass, drums, Mellotron, organ, percussion, sitar and vocals. Of course, Danny was front and center on vocals, piano and glockenspiel.

With Off-Vaudeville, Danny Henry distills his early influences into a heady brew. His sun-kissed songcraft is by turns, Randy. endearing, heartfelt and irresistible, enhanced by Fernando Perdomo’s crisp production. This record deserves a place on the shelf next to The Beach Boys Today, Emitt Rhodes’ self-titled album, Nilsson’s Aerial Ballet and Elton John’s Honky Chateau.